Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English and French speaking countries. It is from the French form Charles of the Proto-Germanic name ᚲᚨᚱᛁᛚᚨᛉ (in runic alphabet) or *karilaz (in Latin alphabet), whose meaning was "free man". The Old English descendant of this word was Ċearl or Ċeorl, as the name of King Cearl of Mercia, that disappeared after the Norman conquest of England.
The name was notably borne by Charlemagne (Charles the Great), and was at the time Latinized as Karolus (as in Vita Karoli Magni), later also as Carolus. Some Germanic languages, for example Dutch and German, have retained the word in two separate senses. In the particular case of Dutch, Karel refers to the given name, whereas the noun kerel means "a bloke, fellow, man".